We know that Jesus does speak to us today and it is always the Holy Spirit reminding us of what the Word says. Every time we read the Word of God, we are hearing Jesus speak to us. However, there was one specific time when Jesus directly addressed the church in Scripture, and it was Revelation Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. Here, Jesus spoke directly to the seven churches about their practice of representing Him and His Bride, the Church. He was not happy with most of these churches.
I have written about these churches before because I am fascinated with the messages Jesus spoke to each one. Since I’ve written about this before, I will try not to repeat myself in this blog.
First of all, this was the only time in Scripture where Jesus directly addresses the Church. I don’t believe it was a mistake to have His messages recorded in the prophetic Book of Revelation. I believe that the messages to these seven were to seven actual churches, as I believe they represent elements of the church throughout the ages. There were seven messages, each one different from all the others. Let me elaborate:
Ephesus: You Left Your First Love
The spirit of this church throughout the ages placed other things like their ministry emphasis and success before God. There was an obligatory mention of God in all that they did, but the real glory went to what they were able to accomplish on their own merits. The church today continually finds ways to compete with God for the success of what they believe. The church becomes more important than God, which is what Jesus was saying to this church … you have left me for yourselves. It has been that way since the First Century and it continues today.
Smyrna: You Will Suffer
The Christian church will always suffer. When the church delivers the truth of God’s Word to the world, it will get pushback and the church often is feared. Once the world fears the Gospel and its ability to change people, it is imperative for them to destroy this competition for the hearts of people at all costs. In every age, the church has suffered because it was determined to preach the truth without compromise.
Pergamum: Compromise with False Teaching
One of the tactics of our enemy, the devil, is to distort the truth. He will make it sound right, smell right, and taste right, but all the time he is changing the nature of the ingredients to make it appear to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No revolution is done overnight … it starts with slow increments of change until eventually, it has enough acceptance of the early adopters to persuade others to think and act in deception. Satan must distort the very Book that Christians say is the authority of God on earth. If that is what people believe, then don’t do away with the Book … just reinterpret the Book to mean something different from what it intended.
The sexual drive is a strong motivation in our human experience. It is the one area where men especially are led away to slaughter without much resistance. Even King David when he saw Bathsheba could not resist her beauty. We have seen some very powerful and influential Christian leaders fail their families and their ministries due to the power of sexual immorality. There is no other temptation as strong or as luring as the sexual temptation. It does not regard reputations, successful leadership, or the size of the church that is pastored … sexual immorality will always win out against such things. The only way you can survive the temptation is to be in fellowship with God.
Sardis: Spiritually Dead
I have worshipped in many churches, and I can honestly say that most of them were spiritually dead. They had a form of Godliness but denied the power of the Spirit. Many of them focused on the wrong emphasis. These kinds of churches are pastored by those who do not know God, and that lack of knowledge is evident in what they promote and preach. They seem to be quick to accept the latest and greatest emphasis, but it will have no connection to God. An example of this would be the popularity of the “prosperity gospel.” This message seems alive but when properly tested and discerned by God’s Word, it will always come up wanting.
Philadelphia: You Kept My Word
Notice this was the only church that had the strong support of Jesus. It is not about the size or emphasis of the church … it is about being faithful to God. In 1 Chronicles 16:9 God is looking on the earth for faithful men and women who follow Him. The only thing He is looking for is who is faithful to God.
Laodicea: You are Lukewarm
This church found itself successful, but let down its guard in being totally sold out for God. In this type of church, God has a mention, but this church was successful in making it known they had few needs, even for God. God said that a church that needs nothing is wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.
Look at each one and analyze the attitude of Jesus toward His Bride and you will get the feeling that He wants a different kind of Church. He isn't interested in a church that doesn't keep Him first, or a church that compromises the truth, or a church that keeps itself from flirting with moral issues that can lead to ungodliness. He doesn't want a church that thinks its success places them above the need for God, and He does not want a spiritually dead church without the zeal for Him.
So, these citations were not just for the First Century church … they are citations for all churches throughout the centuries. Looking at the modern church today, I could see each of these messages speaking to us about the emphasis, attitude, and direction of our modern ministries. Jesus was aware of the good things each church did and cited those, but good things never overshadowed the citations of His message to each church.
Making us self-aware is the work of the Holy Spirit. His advice, counsel, and leadership are what makes the church suitable for the work and worship of our Lord. Are we listening for His voice?
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler